One of the tantalizing sidebars of sports is the inevitable debate about who is the best. Since our game includes participants from the entire globe, options for your all-time best eleven players are endless.
Of course we are likely to show a bias toward players that rose to greatness in our own era, from our favorite teams, or even players of our own heritage. Clouding the debate further, we are all influenced by the qualities we like in players. Roy Keane may not have been the most technically gifted player in the world, but I personally like players that have an edge and ferociousness about them. Liverpool fans would certainly tell you otherwise.
For me, Zizou is up there with some of the best that have ever laced up a pair of boots. Technically and tactically very gifted, with an obvious nasty streak. I like that in a player. Fans of the Azzurri, and Barca fans for that matter, would definitely disagree.
Disagreement leads to debate and I love it. Tantalizing.
With that said, I present to you my choice for my perfect starting eleven. Agree. Disagree. Insult me and tell me my taste in players is questionable, at best. On this subject, I don’t care. These are my guys and I’m riding with them.
Peter Schmeichel (GK) – One of the best shot stoppers to grace the game with a cabinet full of medals to prove it. The big Dane would never be accused of being shy. Footage of him barking at his defenders is priceless.
Roberto Carlos (Right Back) – Simply stated, he changed the position. Bombing up and down the line, he changed the position from that of just a defensive role to that of a dangerous attacker. Two words: Le Tournoi (look it up) and thighs (is that more than two words?).
Franco Baresi (Center Back) – From the era I know, he was simply better at reading the game than everyone else. Period. Not only that, but it was effortless. Also the best at springing a counter from deep with a slide rule pass. Gifted.
Marcel Desailly (Center Back) – Close to Baresi’s equal with freakish athleticism. With technical skills that surpassed most central defenders, any coach, fan, or player would want this guy on their team. Silky.
Paolo Maldini (Left Back) – Come on, no debate here. The guy played at the highest level for club and country for almost a quarter of a century and earned 120+ caps for Italy. Not just durable, but effective.
Ronaldinho (Right Midfield) – One of the most technically gifted players ever produced from Brazil – and that is saying something. Probably not going to track back and provide defensive cover, but with those skills, who cares? An absolute artist on the ball.
Roy Keane (Defensive Midfield) – While all these pretty boys dance around on the ball in my team, someone has to provide the brawn. The fiercest competitor of a generation of footballers. Not nice, questionable character, but my gawd, what a beast. Covered every blade of grass, scored the occasional goal. Winner of the ball, as well as trophies. Frequently succumbed to the red mist.
Ryan Giggs (Left Midfield) – The Welsh Wizard was dazzling up and down the wing. If you know nothing else about him, do yourself a favor and watch his goal in the 1999 FA Cup (sorry Arsenal fans). One of the few nice guys in my squad – never sent off in a 20+ year club career. Questionable chest hair though.
Eric Cantona (Forward) – Not really a forward, not really a midfielder, but one of the first players to excel in what is now called the “hole” position, or withdrawn striker. Paved the way for the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and those like him. With the upturned collar and classic french arrogance, this guy was just as likely to score a goal as he was to create one. Never ordinary. Dabbled in red cards and kung fu.
Zinedine Zidane (Forward) – Capable of changing a game on his own. Creator and scorer of amazing goals on the biggest of stages. No stranger to the red card as demonstrated by the world’s most famous head butt. An exquisite talent with an edge. For me, one of the best ever.
Thierry Henry (Striker) – Could play on the left, right, or up the middle and still score loads of goals. Could play in Italy, England, Spain, and the States and score loads of goals. Part of the infamous Invincibles. With tons of pace and guile, he could out run defenders, out wit defenders, smash it into goal, and finesse it into goal. One word: goals.
So there they are – my guys.
I’m aware I left out some obvious greats like Cryuff, van Basten, Maradona, Messi, Pele, Beckenbauer, Gullit, Platini, etc. But these are the guys I prefer. Who are your guys? Who are your gals? I would encourage you to let the Trebol world know what YOUR best eleven look like.
One thing I do know, they ain’t gonna get three points against my squad.